Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Atonement and the World

The holy days and festivals of God have great meaning, meaning that is well known in God's Church but is hidden from the world. These days help to illustrate and reveal God's plan for the salvation of mankind. Their meaning and God's plan are hidden from the world because the world does not believe what God says. The world does not believe God's commands to observe His weekly Sabbath day and His annual festivals and holy days. And because they do not believe, they do not understand. They are blinded.

But we in the Church of God understand, and those God is calling, whose minds are being opened to the truth, are able to believe and understand.

Tonight the Day of Atonement begins. Atonement is commanded in the Old Testament, and there are certain rituals given with this day that help illustrate its meaning, yet the keys to understand those rituals are given in the New Testament. The Day of Atonement is an annual holy day and annual sabbath. No work is to be done on Atonement. We observe it from sunset tonight to sunset tomorrow night. It is a day of assembly for the Church of God (Leviticus 23:26-32).

God gives instructions for animal sacrifices for Atonement in the Old Testament. We do not sacrifice animals today, yet the study of ceremonies and sacrifices of Atonement can help us understand the meaning of this day, particularly the instructions concerning the two goats. One goat is to be slain. The other goat is released in the wilderness (Leviticus 16:1-34). The Church can understand the meaning of these two goats when we put this ceremony together with the teaching of the New Testament and with other parts of the Old Testament. We understand that the goat that is slain represents Christ and His sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins (Isaiah 53:1-12, John 1:29, Hebrews 9:11-15, 10:4-14). We also understand that the live goat represents Satan, who will be put away in a condition of restraint after the return of Christ to rule the earth (Revelation 20:1-3).

We bear guilt for our sins until we repent and are converted and the sacrifice of Christ is applied to pay the penalty for our guilt. But Satan bears guilt for our sins for tempting us to sin, and he bears his own guilt. The share of the guilt for our sins that belongs to us is placed on the head of the goat that is slain, and this represents Christ bearing our guilt and paying the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven. The share of the guilt for our sins that belongs to Satan for deceiving us and the whole world and tempting us and leading us into sin is placed on Satan's head, and he bears that guilt and pays his own penalty, which is not death but removal from office and banishment. This is represented by the live goat sent into the wilderness.

How strange and how cryptic this must have seemed to Old Testament Israel. They were not given an explanation for the meaning of this ceremony. Why two goats? Why is one killed and the other sent away? It must have seemed a puzzle to them.

But I said in my last post on Trumpets that one of the proofs of God's inspiration of the Bible is the consistency between all parts of the Bible, though those parts were written by different men separated by centuries. The Atonement ritual exactly fits the teaching of the New Testament. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for the sins of the world. But Satan shares responsibility for deceiving and tempting mankind, and he will be put away from mankind, not killed, but banished, as if to a "wilderness".

And the whole plan of God, as illustrated by the festivals and holy days and by the teachings of both old and new testaments, is the most logical, sensible plan there can be. It shows the wisdom, power, and mercy of the great Creator God. It is the only explanation for the world as it is that makes sense.

God is letting mankind learn a painful lesson that Satan's way does not work. Then Satan will be put away and everyone will have a chance to accept and learn that lesson. All who have ever lived will have a chance to repent and believe in the true gospel, to accept the sacrifice of Christ, and to be saved. Those who permanently refuse God's way will be put out of existence, destroyed, so they cannot make themselves and others miserable any longer. Those who are saved will have learned the right way to live, the way that brings happiness, and they will be given eternal life to be happy forever in God's kingdom.

What an awesome plan God has made!

God's plan is the very best plan for bringing the greatest degree of happiness to the greatest number of people possible. God's plan is perfect. There is no way to improve it.

"But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him' " (1 Corinthians 2:9). "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).

Yet, none of that awesome meaning was available to the nation of Israel, apart from God's revelation to the prophets, when they kept the Atonement ceremony. Its meaning was hidden until revealed later. Yet, once revealed, that ceremony shows a clear and beautiful meaning. This is one of the proofs of God's inspiration of the Bible. For if the ceremony of the two goats of Atonement was merely the invention of uninspired men, how could they have designed such a ritual that EXACTLY fits the only explanation for the plan of God to save mankind that makes sense, and not even know or record what that plan is?

Atonement then has a two-fold meaning. It represents the judgment of Satan and the putting away of Satan at the end of this age. It also represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. Passover also represents the sacrifice of Christ.

But Atonement has a special meaning for the world. It is associated with the events at the end of this age when God sets His hand, for the first time in human history, to save the whole world. Up to that time, God has only been saving the few, the first fruits, the few who are called to salvation in this age, that is, the Church.

When I study the Passover and its symbols and meaning, I get a deep sense of how the sacrifice of Christ applies to me personally as a Church member during this age of man, and how it applies to all Church members who are the few who are called in this age. Israel was in Egypt, and Egypt was a type or metaphor for Satan's world in this age. And God "passed over" the houses of the Israelites, but He did not pass over the houses of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:11-13). He made a difference between Israel and Egypt just as He makes a difference between us in the Church and those in the world who are not converted. We are forgiven, they are not. We are promised eternal life, they are under a death sentence.

But when I study Atonement and its symbols and meaning, I get a sense of a focus on the world as a whole, the whole human race, the vast majority of mankind that is not the first fruits, not called in this age. The sacrifice of Christ applies to them as much as to us, when they repent and are converted, and that happens after the return of Christ, at the end of this age, but not yet, not now.

I am not saying that the symbols of Passover only apply to the Church and not to mankind during the millennium and white throne judgment, and I am not saying that the goat that is slain on Atonement does not represent Christ paying the penalty for our sins for us in the Church. Both the Passover lamb and the Atonement goat that is slain represent the same thing: Christ's sacrifice to pay the penalty for man's sins, both us in the Church today and all mankind in the millennium and white throne judgment. I am only saying that I get a sense of a different emphasis. With Passover, the emphasis seems to be on us in the Church, whereas with Atonement, the emphasis seems to me to be on the world. Perhaps I feel this way because I know that the events pictured by Atonement will have such a dramatic effect on the world as a whole. In any case, that is my personal impression.

When Satan is put away, for the first time since the sin of Adam, mankind will be free of Satan's deception, temptations, and influence.

Ever wonder what human beings would be like without the influence of Satan and his demons? We will see, and the whole world and all of God's angels will see what that is like.

Also, for the first time, God's Holy Spirit will be made available to all who repent, and repentance will be offered to all. No one will be forced to repent and be converted, but everyone will be able to, and I am sure most will.

What a different world that will be.

Atonement represents a completion of the getting rid of the guilt of mankind and enabling mankind to be fully united with God, "at one" with God. It represents getting rid of ALL the guilt for man's sins, both our share and Satan's share. The share of the guilt for human sin that belongs to Satan will be placed on Satan's head where it belongs. And the share of the guilt for human sin that belongs to humans will be paid for by Christ, who suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins. Then all humanity can be freed from guilt in God's eyes and can become at one with God and Christ.

Here are links to other posts in this blog on the subject of Atonement:

"Day of Atonement", dated September 16, 2010, link:

"Atonement and Fasting", dated October 7, 2011, link:

"Atonement Represents Complete Reconciliation with God", dated October 2, 2014, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Day of Atonement - the Putting Away of Satan, Chapter 2

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